Guide to a dialogue about abortion
Hyten is co-executive director of Essential Partners.
Abortion is one of the most polarized topics in American politics — one side favors access, the other side favors restriction. Simple enough.
However, Americans themselves hold nuanced, complex, sometimes contradictory perspectives on abortion. It is a peculiar irony that the complexity of those views also creates the circumstances for polarization. People have had vanishingly few opportunities to talk about abortion in their lives. It is so often taboo. Just as often, people find it too difficult to articulate their views and they choose silence instead.
This reticence has allowed the most extreme voices to dominate in the media, in our politics and in our communities.
On abortion, few, if any, political leaders express the views of the people they represent. But we can change that together.
The Supreme Court has handed down a decision that effectively reversed Roe vs. Wade. This turns one polarized national conversation into fifty distinct deliberations unique to the history, context, and communities within each state.
As our nation navigates conversations about this topic in the coming months — whether in direct response to the Supreme Court draft decision or not — it is essential to honor both the complexity and the urgency around this conversation. It is also vital to the future of our nation that we empower the voices of everyday people, so they are able to articulate and advocate their genuine, nuanced views.
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To support new conversations about abortion, Essential Partners has published a guide designed to invite citizens to make space for conversations about abortion that bring in deep beliefs and complexity. To transform the conversation in their individual context, it is crucial that we allow space for whatever comes up for people, even (or especially) if it is messy.
For a copy of the guide, go to:
Laura Chasin, the founder of Essential Partners who co-led confidential leadership dialogues about abortion for the better part of a decade, often spoke of “liberation through structure.” It is so easy for conversations on this topic to go off the rails and devolve into unproductive venting or harmful, polarizing rhetoric—especially in times like these.
Structures and norms like the ones suggested in our new guide may feel awkward, but they also create the possibility of a new kind of conversation. You have to step out of your normal way of speaking and relating to one another in order to free yourself of dysfunctional, polarizing patterns.
This guide is designed to help you give any group an opportunity to reflect on the impact of the draft Supreme Court decision in a way that builds empathy, understanding, trust, and compassion — and then, if you choose, to help people wrestle with how they want to come together as a community to support people in a variety of ways.
Within this resource you will find general tips as well as guidelines and prompts for more formal dialogues that you can hold in your classroom, bible study, book club, institution or community space.
If this guide doesn't meet the needs of your context, if you have questions about the use of this guide or if you want some additional support and collaboration, please reach out for a free consultation with an EP expert.